School librarians administer libraries and perform related library services in schools. They can work in libraries at any level of school, from grade school to university. The school librarian selects, budgets, orders, and classifies library media for efficient retrieval by users, usually students at the school. The school librarian also maintains the library’s catalogs, and ensures that all library materials are listed in them. School librarians are increasingly upgrading their services to include computer terminals for student use and Internet access.
Individual states usually have individual certification requirements for public school librarians. Most often, the public school librarian needs a bachelor’s degree in education along with suitable specialized courses in library science. Some schools require librarians to be certified both as a teacher and a school librarian while other schools require a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree with a concentration in school library media. The MLS degree curriculum usually includes courses in library science, material selection, and reference tools. Some schools might require a master’s degree in education with a focus in school library or educational media.
The responsibilities of a school librarian are many and varied. One major area of responsibility is to ensure that their library is properly stocked and is a relevant resource for the students of the school. Librarians determine what information is needed for their library, and in what format it should be stored (book, magazine, audio, video, computer file, etc.). They budget and order the proper materials for the library. They ensure that materials required by the school are kept current and on hand, and they review and evaluate resource material for appropriateness.
Another major area of responsibility is library operation. School librarians classify and catalog all library materials and keep detailed records of these materials and their circulation. They check material in and out, and often teach students how to search for information.
To excel as a school librarian, an individual must first be highly organized and detail oriented. The modern librarian needs to be familiar not only with traditional media and classification systems such as the Dewey Decimal System, but also needs to keep up to date with modern media storage and retrieval methods, including video and DVD, audio books and CDs, and many types of computer information platforms and programs.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 159,000 people were employed as librarians in 2004, and more than half of these worked in school libraries at various levels from grade school to universities and other academic collections.
Employment of school librarians is expected to slow over the next decade because of the increased use of computerized information storage and retrieval systems. On the other hand, although job growth might be slow, many individuals who are currently employed as school librarians are due to retire within the next decade, which will create more job openings, and fewer people are entering this field, resulting in fewer candidates for these positions.
A school librarian salary can vary widely depending on the individual’s qualifications and experience and the type, size, and location of the library. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary of librarians in 2004 was about $45,900 with a range running from under $36,980 to a high of more than $70,200.